Monday, 31 March 2014

Design Notebook: The Enormous Triangle Ponshawl

On Friday, my latest knitting pattern went live on Ravelry and Craftsy. Unlike most of my other 'makes' this was one which didn't start out with a clear direction, and it took various incarnations before I had finally decided on exactly how it should look. 

It all started when I wanted to make an oversized red shawl to wear to Unravel. Mum was dispatched to the local yarn shop and instructed to bring back two balls of the biggest reddest yarn she could find, which happened to be Patons Big Fab Chunky 100% acrylic yarn costing just over £5 per 200g ball. I quickly got to work...

Unraveling the Unravel shawl (v1)
It knitted up so fast that I made and ripped it out a few times when I couldn't decide from sketches which directions I wanted the eyelets to travel - all in the same direction, symmetrical from the central increases, or alternating. I finally decided on something I thought I might like... until I was ready to move onto the planned (fancy) border. With it layed out flat, it became obvious that while the design was sound, it wasn't really "me". I prefer my knits to be plain and simple... and big. There wouldn't be time to make it before Unravel, so it was put on hold.

When I finally picked the yarn back up (with an extra 200g ball), it was with a clear direction - a plain simple triangle which would be enormous, and which could be worn as a shawl or transformed into a poncho - it would be a "ponshawl". It didn't take very long to knit up all 600g and make the icord using a lucet. It was huge, red and simple - in short, it ticked all my boxes.
In fact it worked so well, as soon as I wore it I knew I had to make another one in a wool yarn and with a longer icord (asap!). The acrylic yarn is very warm and dense, and as a rule I prefer natural fibres which are more breathable (but which are also significantly more expensive and higher maintenance).
After consultation with a few different knitting friends, I ordered 400g of Rowan Big Wool in the 'Sun' colourway (almost £9 per 100g ball) - perfect for the beginning of spring. Once it arrived, the triangle and icord were finished within just over four hours. Blocking and drying took longer than the knitting, giving me time to reflect... and to spot the obligatory mistake - a forgotten pair of increases smack-bang in the centre of the shawl - grrr!

UntitledSimple stitches, quick progress and a satisfying result at the end - this would be a perfect project for a new knitter. So I started writing the pattern with beginners in mind. For a knit that took only four hours, the pattern-writing took over a fortnight! It had to be clear enough for a novice to follow, and that also meant photographing new tutorials (for the cast on, making the icord with a lucet and also with DPNs) which are linked in the pattern.

With all that done, the lovely test knitters got to work. (One of the testers decided to knit it as a stash-buster project and used 4 strands of DK held together, alternating one strand every few rows for a stunning result) and the pattern was revised, clarified, finished and ready to publish.

I've worn one or other of these every day since finishing, and because I like matchy-matchy found a pair of pumps in the same colour as the wool version. The assistant tried to put me off saying I was too young to wear them (they are from the old lady range, but I figured that I already have kids asking if I'm a granny because I knit, it would be fine to dress like one too!) 
Thanks to everyone who has already downloaded the pattern. If you haven't yet, but you'd like to know more, head over to Ravelry or Craftsy where you'll find details of the yarn and notions, and the skills used.

As there is so much to 'show and tell' this week, tomorrow's post won't be limited to spinning. I'll be telling you about some other things which are going on as well as a peek at my own new project, and some dates for your diary! 
Saturday, 29 March 2014

An interview with David Dawson - GBSB Episode 6

Hopefully by now you've all had a chance to catch up with Tuesday's episode of the Great British Sewing Bee - Vintage week. I'm guessing so as the various emails and messages asking for "no spoilers yet" are slowly being replaced by people asking when this post will be published.

It was an emotional episode for me not in the least because I, like many others who commented on various social media, spent part of it teary-eyed when my mum was reminiscing about her mother, her clothes and her old sewing machine. It brought back so many memories of my childhood and teens, much of it sat waiting for my nan to finish something I was waiting to wear (often from a rough sketch I'd drawn). 

I was thrilled that Mum won Garment of the Week for the THIRD time for her authentic 1950s coat (the only person who has won the accolade more than once). 
This was my favourite episode so far in terms of the garments, and it's no surprise that three of this week's items made it into the book - the 1930's blouse, Tamara's 1960's coat and Mum's A-line Pinafore (made from a man's suit).

Although I knew who was leaving this week's show before watching it, I felt terribly disappointed to see David's departure and felt his performance this week should have earned him a place in the semi-finals. Ok, his blouse in the first challenge wasn't great. It may have been something to do with his attaching "the blouse-top-bit to the bottom-skirty-bit", but then a vintage pattern without markings wasn't ever going to end well for everyone! However the suit-to-dress- transformation was David's best alteration challenge of the series and looked well executed, as did his vintage-style policeman's coat - despite the fabric not being quite what he expected. I really didn't think he deserved to go and it was horrible to see him hobbling out of the sewing room on his crutches with his backpack. (Good TV though!)

Like many of you, I have enjoyed David's sense of humour, and his kind nature - he is what some might call "a good egg". I hope that at least some of the men who watched the show by default (because someone else in the house was watching) will be inspired by seeing a quite ordinary family man sewing and making nice things for his wife and kids! I asked David to tell us about his sewing background and what he's doing now. Here's what he had to say.... 

Hi David and welcome to Crafts from the Cwtch. I know you have a lot of fans amongst my readers, and I'd like to take the opportunity to say congratulations on getting through to the quarter finals and being the last man standingCan you tell us what other crafts you enjoy (if any)?
I don't really do any other crafts but I do tinker with my motorbike and one day I might even get it running again!! Another hobby though is Aikido, great stress reliever for when you can't get to a sewing machine.

Photo credits: BBC/Love Productions
You seem like a real "man's man" and quite handy with tools, what do your male friends and colleagues make of your sewing? Do any of them sew too?
The lads at work are always taking the mickey and I wouldn't have any it other way. They now take the mic and then hand me their trousers to take in or let out!! No they don't sew although one of the guvnors has blown off the dust of an old machine. Hopefully I've inspired him to learn some sewing skills.

What made you apply for the competition and at what did your friends say when they found out you were on the show? Were they surprised?
I enjoyed the first series so much I just thought I'd give it a bash. I kept it secret apart from the wife and few select ladies (which the wife knows!!!) Surprise is an under statement from the lads at work, but everyone of them has said well done,  of course after having taken the mickey first.

On  the show your wife said that you have made quite a few things for the house, what's your favourite thing you've made for the home? What other things do you like to make?
I made all sorts of home stuff but  I think I'm most happy with a pair of curtains which were lined and had french pleats. Clothes are the most fun to make though and that's where I put most of my effort. Dresses for my wife and daughter.

It seems as though the contestants got on well and you have even been helping one another out in some tricky situations you proved to be the 'hero' a few times. Did you ever stop to think that you were meant to be competing?
The guys and girls on the show are great and it's nice to have to someone to talk to about my hidden guilty pleasure!!! As for competing, yes it was a competition but they're more my friends than my competitors so why wouldn't you help them? They all helped me and are still helping now all the filming is done and dusted. And what big burly bloke wouldn't want to be the hero for a room full of beautiful women? Lucky me!!!!

How difficult was it for you to compete whilst using crutches? (I also know everyone will be keen to know whether your leg is recovered.)
After surgery I was only supposed to be on crutches for a couple of weeks but due to difficulties it became three months, aaaarrrrgggggg! I had to learn to control my left foot well and quickly as I couldn't use my right to press the pedal! It was fine though and didn't really cause me too many problems. Of course Claudia was always at hand to carry things for me and steal my sweets off camera!! The leg is well on the mend now and hopefully be 100% in time.

Source: @AnnaDrives via Twitter
What did you learn about sewing and about yourself, as a result of being on the show? 
I didn't stop learning from day one. I was very inexperienced really, due to working so many hours and this is my hobby. I learned that I was good at sewing from a pattern and not good at creativity. Skills wise I've learned so much it's too much to mention. I basically sewed straight stitch and that was about it. The over-locker or 'over-lord' as Claudia calls it, was a steep learning curve. I've got it on my birthday list just in case the wife wants to spend any of my money on me for a change!!!

What's next for you? 
I'm enjoying making sewing tutorials on YouTube. As I learn I can pass it on, hopefully get some more of the blokes sewing! I'm going to make more clothes for myself and fit them well. I have broad shoulders and a narrow waist (when my belly isn't ruining it). So getting a jacket to fit well is always a problem so it's time to take on that challenge.

If you've enjoyed watching David and want to see more of his sewing and general good nature, you can find him on YouTube,  FacebookTwitter and on his website. I have another interview lined up next week, when one of the semi-finalists will be here to talk about their journey and life after the Sewing Bee. I'm not telling you who it is though - you'll have to come back to find out! 
Friday, 28 March 2014

20 Loops and a Eureka Moment - Spring Knitalong week 2

I've been so busy working on new patterns (and planning a few new projects) that I didn't get much time to knit on Miss Winkle in the last week*, completing only four more loops, but quite unexpectedly I did learn a new skill while working on it.

I've probably mentioned before that my Mum knits in a rather bizarre fashion, working backwards and forwards across the needles without turning her work, so that the right side is always facing her. I really didn't really see the point in learning to knit like this, until Sharon, a member of the Ravelry group said she'd learned to do it so she didn't have to keep turning the shawl every four stitches when making the loops. Eureka! The very next loop I knit back and forth without turning.
It was easy to do for so few stitches. What a revelation! I know the anatomy of a knit and purl stitch well enough not to need to use a tutorial to do it 'backwards' but there are some tutorials online. I haven't linked to any as I haven't taken the time to look at them, but if it's something you would like to try, you might like to start with some links on the knitalong thread.

As Chrissy (Stitched Together) said, when she set out to knit this simple garter stitch project, she hadn't expected to learn a new skill. Neither did I, but it certainly keeps things interesting.

*I am a day late in posting this update, sorry! There are two brand new patterns and an interview with David Dawson from the Sewing Bee coming up in the next few days which I hope will make up for it! And you have just a few more days to enter the giveaway for Claire Garland's awesome book - I've been knitting letters from it, and haven't shown you those yet either!

There were some lovely blogs linked in last week's post and I'm looking forward to catching up with more this week - you know what to do!
Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Knitted icord tutorial

Last week I showed you how to use a lucet to make an icord. You can also use double pointed needles which are a bit more fiddly, but as DPNs come in multiple sizes from miniscule to monstrous that means added flexibility. For the purposes of this tutorial, I'm using 5mm DPNs and a Chunky yarn (Sirdar Folksong Chunky) to produce a fairly sturdy icord. Using larger needles will increase the gauge and flexibility of the finished fabric, whilst smaller needles will produce a tighter firmer finished cord.

You will need: 
- Yarn of your choice
- Two double pointed needles which are a suitable size for the yarn
- Needle for sewing in ends



When you have bound off, simply sew in the ends and your icord is done. 

I'm about to release two brand new patterns which use icords, but if you want to practice immediately, you could take a look at my Whimsical Cowl (free) pattern which also uses an icord. (Can you tell that I love making them?)

Those looking for my Sewing Bee Quarter-finals post, it will be along when more people have had a chance to catch up with last night's episode as there are a lot of spoilers, including an interview with the person who left! See you soon.
Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Spinning Show & Tell: Louise Player from Spin City

Yes, this week I'm showing you... a person! I confess that I've had a spinning-crush on Louise's fibre and spindles, and her beautiful yarns, for some months and I was delighted when she found the time to join in with Show & Tell. 

Hello Louise and welcome to Spinning Show & Tell. Can you tell us a little about your background and how you became a spinner? 
Hello! Thank you for having me on your wonderful blog, I’m really excited to be here. So, a little bit about myself. I’m a 25 year old textile designer from Suffolk. I’ve just graduated from my Master’s degree in fashion knitwear, which I studied at St Martin’s in London and before that Chelsea College of Art and Design. This is where I got addicted to spinning my own yarn! I was designing with chunky, pure wool and couldn’t find the yarn of my dreams within my student budget- so I decided to learn to spin my own. I loved the idea of taking one of the most ancient crafts and reinterpreting it into something relevant and unique.  One of my many passions in life is to discover new textile techniques and I’m constantly researching and learning- the idea of spinning my own yarn was just a natural progression. I got an Ashford joy from Santa and I would carry it about on the tube like a designer handbag, spinning yarn from my neighbour’s flock of Jacob’s sheep back in Suffolk.

In your bio you say that when you left your rural roots to head for London, you couldn't leave your spinning wheel behind. What is it about spinning that you love so much? 
There are so many things I love about spinning! I think firstly, I love the pure joyous feeling of the fibre in my hands. Secondly, I love how close you get to raw colour - being a painter is probably one of the only other occupations which allows you to absorb colour in such proximity - and I often think to myself that I am painting with fibre when I make batts and spin soft lengths onto my bobbin. I also love the fact that you can make gorgeous, squishable, huggable balls of yarn from piles of fluff- it’s definitely a bit like magic!

When did you start prepping and dyeing fibre and making spindles?
I started straight away prepping my own fibre. I was constantly dyeing yarn for my textile degree and as a dabbler in felt I already had a stash of handdyed fibre - and of course I had sheep’s fleece from my neighbor. I spent many a happy hour vigorously brushing blends with my handcarders before I discovered there was such a contraption as a Drum Carder. I immediately saved up and spent money from my 21st birthday on a preloved Louet from German Ebay and I’ve never looked back. 

I love being able to design my own colourways and weave in a rainbow of interesting materials and textures. I started making spindles over a year ago now, which combined my love for growing and pressing flowers and spinning! I wanted to make spindles which were fun and exciting to use, as you spend such a long time looking at them when you drop spin. I’m pretty obsessed with spinning on my spindles now- I love how portable it is. I have one set up by the kettle and in my bag for any spare moment I have!
Do you have a preference for working with a particular fibre? Is there anything you really don't enjoy working with?
I suppose my preference is for sheep’s wool - as mundane as that sounds for a spinner! It is just so versatile! You can make wonderful art yarn with locks in wild disarray to look like faux fur through to sophisticated ultra fine luxury yarn with fibre as soft as cashmere. It dyes so well and I love how I can go directly to farmers near by, meet the actual sheep, learn their names and spin their fleece.I haven’t met a fibre I didn’t like yet! It really depends on how you use it- Cotton was probably the hardest fibre to spin conventionally for me as the staple is so short, but if you use it in another way where it adds texture and interest you see new potential- I also like a challenge!

Which part of the process do you enjoy the most (dyeing, spinning etc)?
I think I enjoy the concept of spinning a yarn best! I love to delve into my stash of hand dyed fibres, fluffy sheep’s fleeces and unusual materials and gather up an armful of complimentary colours and textures, perhaps inspired by nature or whatever I’m interested in at the time, like baking or history or stargazing- then mixing them all together on my carder and imagining all the ways it could be spun or knitted or woven. I also love it when I have the finished yarn in my hands, like a little work of art. I like to hang my handspun about the house like in a gallery to gaze lovingly at them before I put them onto my shop and set them free into the world.
When and why did you decide to open your business?
I think I decided to open my business for two reasons really. Firstly, I come a background of entrepreneurs as my family all run their own businesses- it seemed very natural for me to jump into that world as a way to earn money during university instead of getting a part time job. Secondly, I think the fact that I love designing the fibre blends and yarns much more than any other part of the process meant I was coming up with so many ideas and not being able to use them all myself! It felt right to put them up online for other’s to give them a creative life and make unique masterpieces- which incidentally makes me very happy to think about! I love enabling people to be creative and express themselves through fibre.

What has been the highlight of your business so far? 
I think the highlight has been meeting people at the wool festivals that I attend with my pop up shop and sharing the enthusiasm for spinning and fibre craft!  I’ve also love teaching people how to spin- especially kids who get totally mesmerized by the process. Finally I’ve really enjoyed being featured in some magazines like ‘Let’s Knit’ and ‘Yarnmaker’ and lovely blogs like yours to spread the love for spinning.

What other crafts and hobbies do you enjoy?
I often think that I love far too many things in life and that it is too short for me to enjoy them all fully! Crafts wise, I love to knit on my antique knitting machinery from the 40s, crochet (Irish lace in particular) and weave (my newest obsession!) Other hobbies currently include botanical illustration, walking, musical theatre, fossil collecting, 60s music, gardening, board games and kayaking to name a few. I can pretty much find enthusiasm for everything.
Finally, what advice would you give to someone who wants to learn to spin? 
Firstly, welcome to your new obsession! Secondly, don’t panic! It can seem pretty daunting sometimes but just take your time and try and make something that resembles yarn, then feel proud of your accomplishment and new interest. I personally love the thick and thin look of handspun yarn, so try not to be too hard on yourself if it isn’t up to your standards at first.

Lastly, remember to ‘pinch’. Spinning is all about how well you can control your pinch on the fibre, so if you have got that then you will be a pro in no time.I’d also recommend watching youtube- this is how I taught myself! I’m planning on making some videos in the near future myself.Thank you for having me on your blog and good luck to all the wannabe spin-stars!

You can find out more about Louise's spinning on her website and blog and see her beautiful yarns, spindles , kits and fibre at her Etsy shop (be warned - there's a LOT of lovely stuff there!). If you're attending any of these festivals, you will also get to see Louise in person - I'm hoping to catch up with her at Unwind! 

Image credits: All photos courtesy of Louise. 
Monday, 24 March 2014

Garter Tab Cast on Tutorial

My favourite method for casting on a triangular shawl is the 'garter tab cast on' as it gives a straight neat edge. My new pattern is to be released later this week (update: it's here!) and includes just such a cast-on, so for anyone who isn't familiar with this, or who needs a refresher, here's a step by step guide.  It's very simple when you know how and I've used a coloured yarn which should make it easier to make out where the different stitches start out and end up! 
I usually use a long tail cast on, but unless specified in the pattern, any cast-on method you like is fine. For the purposes of the tutorial I'm using 2 stitches and six rows for the cast on, but this may vary in other patterns. 
At this point, the knitting will probably want to twist up on itself, so just give it a little wiggle to straighten it and then lay it flat to clearly see the 'bumps' you will pick up to knit. 
You're almost done - just one more rotation and a few stitches to go! 
The 'bumps' on the cast-on edge may not be so easy to see, if you are a tight knitter. Take your time. 
The stitches are now ready for the 'set up' row and placement of your stitch markers! 
Friday, 21 March 2014

16 Loops and some prizes - Spring Knitalong week 1

#cftcspringkal week 1 update - 16 loops of Miss Winkle
My Miss Winkle in Nimu Yarns Isel in Iridium colourway (discontinued)
Switching yarns mid-week was definitely the right choice as I just love the way this is knitting up. The pattern really suits variegated yarns so well and let's be honest, it can be tricky to find a good pattern to show the full potential of a single skein of hand-dyed variegated. (I'd already cast this on a couple of times unsuccessfully.)  It's my last stashed skein from Nimu - the shop is now closed- and the colours are gorgeous. I didn't think they were very spring-like until my friend pointed out that it includes all the colours of a Cadbury's Creme Egg wrapper. That made me much happier.

Source: Ravelry
There are some absolute BEAUTIES on the Ravelry group and on Instagram (with the tag #cftcspringkal). I think my favourite yarn is the stunning Knitting Goddess Candy Cane which MrsBlaza is using (pictured).

If you haven't already joined in the kal and are wondering how to go about it, it's not too late. Hop on over to this post which includes all the information you need. If you're quick you can still be in with a chance of winning a lovely prize in the draw! "A prize draw?" I hear you say, why yes! Some lovely independent sellers have offered prizes for the knitalong, and all are happy to post internationally. The draw will include....

... TWO gorgeous shawl pins and 50g of hand-dyed yarn (pic to follow) from Devon Sun Yarns, a set of snag-free stitch markers (of your choice) from Rosy Retro and a pattern (of your choice) from Martina Behm's Ravelry store! It would be great if you could show your thanks for these lovely contributions by visiting the links.

TO ENTER: you simply need to be knitting along with us AND participating in the Ravelry group thread (here) If you're not a member of Ravelry, it's free - you just need to sign up. That's it! I'll randomly draw the winners on Thursday 10th April 2014.

If you've been blogging about the kal and would like to add the url to this week's update, please do so in the linky below. I'll be back next Thursday with my second update (this post is a day late because I off having a lovely day in London yesterday, I hope you'll forgive me!) 
Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A trooper, something funny and an interview with Jenni Taylor (GBSB episode 5)

Photo 20140319195407
Credit: BBC/Love Productions
If you thought that my mum, Lynda, wasn't quite herself on this week's episode of the Great British Sewing Bee, you were absolutely right. She was in fact really poorly the week episode five was filmed, and there were a few times I didn't think she'd be able to compete at all, or that she'd have to leave the competition early due to ill health. 

I obviously wasn't the only one who thought this. You may have spotted her lovely interpreter Helen a few times throughout the series (she is usually just off-camera). Helen felt so certain that Mum wouldn't be able to pull it back after the disastrous first challenge, she said she'd jump in the Thames if she could get a win on the alteration challenge. Now we already know that my mother rises to a challenge, which is what got her on the show in the first place so I'll say no more..... 


Helen - on set.... and jumping into the Thames! 
As well as watching my washed-out mother struggling along, this week was quite sad for me in another regard when one of my favourite contestants left the show. Jenni has made me laugh and brought a tear to my eye on numerous occasions as a viewer, and last week I thought her time might well be up... but she made it through. This week she did well in the first challenge, and made a lovely alteration on the second, after the first day of this week's show it was looking so good.   
Picture credit: BBC/Love Productions
In fact, I thought it would surely be Heather to leave (it looked like she thought the same herself). What can I say? I will miss seeing Jenni's cheeky smile (and watching her reaching for the tissues) next week. I caught up with Jenni to find out a bit more about her and what she has been up to ... 

Hi Jenni and welcome. It's been great watching you on the Sewing Bee and seeing how far you got given that you're the least experienced sewer. Massive congratulations to you. Can you tell us about your background and how you started sewing? 
I was very creative as a child - making thing out of old clothes and I generally loved anything to do with crafts. As a teenager I chose GCSE subjects in Textiles, Dance and Art but also did a lot of after-school activities like sport and choir. The first time I really got into sewing was when I decided to make my wedding dress.

Which other crafts do you enjoy? 
Cooking, Painting and I also sing and play percussion in a band called Snooty Bobs.

Why did you apply for the GBSB?
I didn’t - my husband kirk did! I could have killed him at the time! I had only been sewing for about a year at that point. He quizzed me after watching the first series, about applying for it - I quickly said ‘don’t be stupid I’m not good enough to go on there’! Obviously Kirk and The Great British Sewing Bee thought differently. It was a massive shock to even get the secret application accepted, let alone get through all the audition stages and then to appear on the show. 

What have you learned about sewing, and about yourself since taking part in the competition? 
I have picked up so much, every day I was either learning something new or getting advice on how to perfect what I could already do from the judges and the challenges set by the Bee. Having the opportunity to work with so many different fabrics and equipment like the over-locker. It was great. Having such an array of tasks to complete was also a huge learning curve as we all got to use techniques that we may not have applied before.

I feel I have discovered a lot about myself. I know that I need to have more confidence in myself and my abilities. That I really do need to give myself a huge pat on the back for getting as far as I did and be proud of what I have achieved pre- and post- Bee, in such a short space of time.
Has anything changed for you since being on the show? 
It has given me the confidence boost to do what I love. Sewing, and showing others how to do it too. I originally wanted to be a teacher when I was a kid, and now I get to do exactly that through my up cycle recycle workshops, which I’m really excited about. I have also built my own website and started Blogging, which is a first for me and it is something that I’m really enjoying.  I have been spotted a few times in Pubs and supermarkets. I can’t pop to the shop in my PJ’s anymore! Or maybe I can if they have moustaches and top hats on them! 

What's next for you? 
I hope my workshops build momentum and become a main fixture in my sewing career, but I am totally open to other avenues. Some people have mentioned a book, or that I should get my own programme. This did make me laugh as its just seems so surreal but I would love to do something like that! ‘pinch’ I just needed to remind myself that anything is possible. I have so much passion for sewing, I just want to get everyone doing it! Let’s start a sewing revolution!!!

If you want to join in Jenni's sewing revolution, you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and she has her own website which includes details of her workshops and gigs and her blog. I'm sure you'll all join me in wishing her the very best of luck with everything.

I'd also like to thank Jenni and Helen for allowing me to use their personal photos. 
Monday, 17 March 2014

Making an icord... with a Lucet

Crafts from the Cwtch guide to using a lucet
If you follow my Instagram or Facebook feeds, you will have already seen the new pattern I've been working on over the weekend, which includes an icord. I absolutely love them... which is why they appear in many of my projects. For those who are not so keen on knitting just a few stitches, I wanted to show you another way to get the same effect as a two-stitch knitted icord (or, as my mum calls it, "an iphone cord"!!!). It's so simple, even my four year old can do it!
You will need: 
- A lucet (also called a 'knitting fork') 
- Suitable yarn for the size of your lucet. Using a yarn which is too fine will result in an icord that is very loose and loopy. For this tutorial I'm using a Pony Lucet Fork from and Rowan Big Wool in shade 00068 Sun which is a nice size for this lucet - it produces a flexible cord which is neither too tight nor too baggy.

It really is that simple! If you're wondering what you can use icords for, stay tuned, there will be a few icord projects coming up soon as well as my new pattern which will be ready later this week.
Sunday, 16 March 2014

And we're off!

The Spring Knitalong started yesterday and there are already some projects making their way onto the Ravelry group thread and Instagram feed (see it here). If you're joining in with us, please remember to tag your photos with #cftcspringkal so we can all find them.
#cftcspringkal - getting started!
Of course I made a start on mine, casting on with slightly larger needles (3.5mm) than specified in the pattern. (You know me - I'm not good at sticking to a pattern.) I did only a little bit to get my head around the pattern, and got to the third loop before knitting up another sample for my forthcoming "ponshawl" pattern, but now that's done I'm looking forward to settling down with Miss Winkle this evening.

A couple of tips for those who haven't started yet:
  • Take a couple of minutes to watch the videos linked in the pattern, it makes the design much easier to follow. Even if you can't hear the words or they are not in your language, seeing the loop being made is very clear and shows that it's really simple to do.
  • For clarity - you're turning the work after the loop stitches, to knit the loop independently of the other stitches, as shown in the video/photos. I have seen a couple of people confused by this. Hopefully this is clear in my photo above where the left needle shows the stitches for the main section and the right needle is showing the loop stitches being knit separately.
  • If you are struggling to work something out, pop a question on the Ravelry group (or on Instagram, and tag it). In the unlikely event that other participants can't help, we can ask the designer. I've just had an email from Martina who is pleased that we chose to knit one of her designs for our Spring knitalong and happy to help if needed.   
One final thought about my own project - this yarn is from my stash so it counts towards my Year of Projects. This can only be a good thing as I've dropped the ball on the YoP over the last few months.

It's going to be a VERY busy week on the blog with lots of posts lined up including a step-by-step lucet tutorial and some spinning, an interview with another lovely Great British Sewing Bee contestant, details of some Knitalong prizes and the launch of my new Enormous Triangle ("ponshawl") pattern! In the meantime, don't forget to enter the competition to win a copy of Claire Garland's new book
Friday, 14 March 2014

A totally knit-tastic week!

What a very busy week of knitting it's been. First up I finished not one but TWO new projects, although the "FO photos" aren't quite ready to share with you yet. The first is a new design which I've been working on for the last week or two. It's being test knit at the moment, but here is a taster... 
I love this little lady - she's very cute - and you will get to see the rest of her very soon. If you think her feet look big, just wait until you see her bottom!

The second "finished object" is what became of the 'not-ready-for-Unravel' shawl after I decided to make it into something simple and enormous with the addition of a further 200g of yarn. It's lovely for these spring days (bright and sunny but cold) but it's a fairly dark red, so more yarn is on the way to make another in a more seasonal colour. I can't wait to cast it on!

Whippoorwill FO
While getting these two projects finished and written up into patterns, I have been inundated with lovely messages about my Whippoorwill shawl since it's national TV debut. I tried to reply to all the emails, tweets and comments, but there were so many I fear it hasn't been possible. If you took the time to comment or contact me and I haven't replied directly, please know that I really appreciate your kind words, and am totally blown away that so many people have said they feel inspired to start knitting again, and that other knitters want to try the same pattern and/or yarn.

#cftcspringkal yarn choice.
The Spring knitalong starts tomorrow and I've decided on some yarn purchased at Unravel (2013). It's from A Stash Addict's discontinued range and this evening's task is to get it wound and ready to cast on tomorrow. I really wish Danielle's shop was still open as this pattern would be perfect for her variegated yarns and I have none left, but there are a few beauties on the Ravelry group - come on over if you'd like to join in, we don't bite! 

I'll be back tomorrow to kick off the knitalong. Hope to see you then. 
Thursday, 13 March 2014

Knit the Alphabet blog hop & giveaway

Regular readers will know that I'm a fan of designer Claire Garland, and have been since I knitted her Pixie Moon doll pattern back in November 2011. I follow Claire on Instagram and have seen photos of lovely knitted letters and alphabet cushions over the past few months, so I was delighted when her publishers, Stitch Craft Create  invited me to take part in a blog hop for the launch of her new book, "Knit the Alphabet".
As you might expect - the clue is in the title, after all - this colourful book includes patterns for all the letters of the alphabet (in uppercase), as well as a few extra characters (a heart, star and ampersand). Each pattern is offered in three different sizes for different yarn weights - 4 ply, aran and super chunky. I like that a wide range of different yarns are suggested, and the knitter is encouraged to mix them up to include stripes - these would be great for using up "scrap yarns".

The techniques used in the book - from simple sock cast-on to knitting on DPNs and using mattress stitch - are well described and illustrated in the back of the book, although I would imagine most people who buy it would already have some knitting experience and would find the patterns  to be straight-forward and fun.

So what can you do with these letters? The smaller sizes might make cute wall hangings, mobiles for a child's bedroom or look good on a shelf. I can imagine gifting initials and an ampersand as a wedding gift, or for spelling out a baby's name for naming ceremony. The larger sizes make cute cushions and would look great in the children's playroom. 

Earlier this week I had a chance to ask Claire a little more about the book, and what she's been up to, here's what she had to say:

Hi Claire, and welcome to Crafts from the Cwtch. Many of my readers will be familiar with your work as one of my very favourite projects was your Pixie Moon pattern which I made back in 2011, and she has appeared on the blog quite a lot since then. When did you first start designing your own patterns? Is this something you always wanted to do?
I love your Pixie Moon version! Being a creative person I always wanted, and still want, to make things from my own imagination - my first 'makes' were space outfits made from sweet wrappers, loo paper and sellotape for my pippa dolls - I also designed my own cards for family members…

What other crafts do you enjoy?
I've suddenly got into crochet, and as I've got into it the hook has reduced in size and the yarn/ cotton finer! I also like sewing and embroidery although my sewing machine and I don't get on very well!

You are most well known for your knitted doll patterns and lovely doll clothes/ accessories - you seem to enjoy making what my mum would call "fiddly" things. How often do you knit full-sized garments? Do you make your own clothes?
My one and only full sized item was a cardigan which was knitted in garter stitch and was larger than life - I had knitted it for my art college days and used it to wrap around myself a few times to keep warm in the studio! Smaller things suit me because I like to see a finished article asap - not very patient!

How did you come up with the idea of knitting the alphabet?
I really like letters and numbers and their form and what they stand for - they also look great as an item of art in a room on a wall spelling out words or as a cushion on a chair - so to knit them (and now crochet them) seemed a natural progression

Do you have a favourite pattern in the book - one which you enjoy knitting more than the others?
The ampersand was a real challenge and I really like the way it has turned out - the flip side - 'S' was a bit of a nightmare!!

The thing I like most about your patterns is the attention to detail. When I was knitting Pixie, the little ankles and backs of her knees thrilled me no end. With the alphabet, it's all in the serifs. How did you go about designing the letters and characters - did you use a specific font?
I had the alphabet typed out on a page on my computer - Times Bold - to refer to - it became quite mathematical as the elements of each letter are all relative, something I had never realised before!

I've seen on Instagram that you are now crocheting letters, can we expect another book?
It's still in working progress at the moment so I've not proposed the idea to anyone with it yet.

What's next for you?
I would really, really love to sell finished/ handmade items with beautiful packaging - however it has to be something that would work logistically - that's what is occupying my mind at the present!

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, I'd like to wish you the best of luck with the book and everything else you're working on. Thank you so much Sarah, and very good luck to your mum - I'm a huge fan - and we all want her to win!! Claire

You can see more of Claire's work on her blog, on Facebook and her Etsy store. You can also find her on Ravelry, Pinterest and Tumblr. You can find more details on the blog hop here

If you'd like to get your hands on a copy of the book it's already available in paperback on Amazon for £14.99 and one lucky reader can get a copy for free! To enter the draw, please leave a comment on this post saying what you'd use the patterns for, and remember to leave an email address or your Ravelry name so I can contact you if you win. The draw will take place on Monday 31st March 2014 and is open to international readers too. Good luck!
Wednesday, 12 March 2014

My knitting, a secret & an invisible zip - GBSB episode 4

While following last year's Sewing Bee, I realised there was a lot of interest in Anne's handknits. There were various tweets and Ravelry discussions all trying to decide which pattern she was wearing, and in which yarn. As the weather turned colder between mum (Lynda) filming episodes three and four, I thought it would be fun to see if the same would happen again if she wore some of my handknits on the show. Anyone who remembers the following photo on Instagram, might like to know that they were hanging on the line ready for her to choose something for the 'Bee'...
I'd tried to select patterns that would be fairly easy for knitters Ravelers to recognise on the TV, including Pogona, Color Affections number 1 and number 2 and Nuvem, but Mum chose Whippoorwill, which I'd finished about a month before. 
Credit: BBC/ Love Productions
Within a few moments of the programme starting last night, messages started coming in via Twitter, Facebook and Ravelry. Numerous people were trying to find out whether it was indeed a handknit, what the pattern was, and who had made it. If you are visiting the blog for the first time as a result of such a quest, congratulations and welcome! Here are the details you are looking for:
YARN: I used 126g of Kauni self-striping 100% wool yarn, which was most of one gigantic skein. I buy my Kauni from Etsy and I always get great service with fast free shipping from Aljona and Misha in Estonia, although I am told it is available in other stores too. 

Despite it's size, it didn't take very long to knit as the yarn is a complete joy - the colour changes are perfect and I wanted to keep knitting to see them blend one into the other.  The project was delayed a few times  - first when I knit too much, then when was too hot to carry around over the summer, and finally when I didn't want to bind off in green, but actual knitting time wasn't anything like the four months the project notes suggest!!! I've written more about the yarn in a previous post, so won't repeat it here.  
Source: BBC/Love Productions
I'm cautious about saying too much more about last night's show as many readers don't watch it live and will not yet know the outcome, but I will tell you that the 'secret' model hinted at last week was in fact Emma - the only one in our family (she's not technically a family member, but as good as) who was young enough to model the 'teenage' prom dress. I've lost count of the people saying they expected it to be me, and can say that my sister and I were very relieved to be too old for the challenge, especially as Emma was made for it - those legs go on FOREVER! (As it happens, Mum was expecting one of the challenges would include a family member as the model - that happened last year too - and had been grilling us to find out if myself or my sister were doing anything on the days she was away, but she really had NO idea that we were plotting for Emma to be there instead - I don't think she'll ever trust either of us again as we did it so well!) 

So I won't give anything else away, except to share a quote from mum "I've been labelled as loving children's clothes, but actually special occasion dresses are my favourite makes!" and a picture of her invisible zip *groan* You can catch the rest on iPlayer - enjoy! 
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DISCLAIMER: Crafts from the Cwtch is part of the Deramores, Craftsy, Etsy, Creativebug and Amazon Affiliate programmes and works with a few carefully selected sponsors. Where posts or projects are sponsored, the opinions will always be entirely my own. You can find out more about affiliate links and blog sponsorship here.

Hello and welcome. If it's your first visit you may like to start with my most popular tips & tutorials, or the patterns. You can read more about me on the 'Hello' page and you may also like the CftC pages on Ravelry, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Etsy. I hope you enjoy your visit! Sarah

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